Walden Bello: Pacific Panopticon

Apr 12

This was prior to the development of liberation theology?   There were only a handful of people from the university who took up radical positions in the early part of the Marcos period. For the most part, the Jesuit system has been a fairly efficient producer of ruling-class minds. As in Latin America, a layer of Christians with a national-liberation perspective did emerge from some of the religious orders, especially the relatively newer ones, such as the Redemptorists. But that never predominated among the Jesuits. I knew them all, and very few of them—maybe eight or ten—ever embraced a progressive politics. The Jesuits always had a liberal façade; but in terms of their education and the people they produced, they were really quite conservative. What did you do after graduation? Upper-class education in the Philippines led automatically either to a corporate career with the multinationals, or into law and government. I didn’t want to be trapped in either—at least, not so soon. So I went down to Sulu and taught in a college in Jolo for about a year. There I got involved in discussions with Muslim intellectuals—people who would go on to form the Mindanao National Liberation Front, in which a number of my students later became active too. I was in sympathy with their analysis of a systematic discrimination against Muslims in the Philippines, although I might not have supported outright secession. After that I worked for a few years as publications director of the Institute of Philippine Culture, which had been set up by anthropologists from the University of Chicago. Their approach was highly empirical but their ideas about Filipino social structure and behavioural patterns still had a lot of influence. They were closely linked to the US Agency for International Development. At that time, a huge proportion of American funding for social-science research came from the military. People would go to the Philippines—to places like the IPC—on US naval-research grants. This was in the second half of the sixties, at the height of the war against Vietnam—but the social scientists there still claimed their research had no military application. It was a highly politicizing moment for me, in understanding how the system worked: that there...

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